In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that men have a right to spousal support. Before this ruling, many states assumed that support was strictly reserved for women, regardless of which spouse was the higher earner.
In theory, spousal support should be completely gender-neutral. It is determined by the incomes and financial needs of both spouses. However, biases, both internal and external, reduce the number of men who receive spousal support.
The U.S. Census Bureau continues to crunch its 2020 numbers, but in 2010, the number of men receiving spousal support had gone up only 0.5% from 2000. At that time, the Bureau reported that around 12,000 men received support. This number was far exceeded by women, about 380,000 of whom received spousal support.
At present, there still appears to be a strong cultural bias against men receiving spousal support.
Often, we find men who are reluctant to take spousal support, even when they truly need it. Despite the continued advances toward gender equality, many men still find themselves stuck in traditional models. Men often want to be self-reliant. They feel the need to be the breadwinner and to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”
Men are not alone in fighting these urges. Studies routinely show that marriages struggle when the woman earns more money. Traditional models of the man who takes care of the family can cause power struggles in the home, and this financial imbalance may have been one of the reasons for the divorce.
This puts more pressure on men to deny spousal support. They may feel challenged to “prove themselves.” If they can make it on their own, they think, maybe they can win their wife back. Even if reuniting is not the goal, they may want to prove to themselves that they don’t need help.
Furthermore, judges are not exempt from their own biases. They often put more scrutiny on men who need spousal support. They may ask men for a “job diary” which outlines when the man worked, whether he was looking for work, and so on. Women aren’t often held to such standards. Therefore, even if a man needs spousal support and is willing to take it, he can be easily denied by a prejudiced judge.
Changing With the Times
The world looks far different from the way it did in 1979. In the last four decades, more men make less money than their female spouses. There are more stay-at-home dads as well. Furthermore, same-sex marriage has been officially sanctioned, further changing the entire landscape and conversation around gender and marriage.
Spousal support is designed to keep one partner afloat. It has nothing to do with gender or manhood. When you are married, your finances are intimately tied to your partner’s. Any money that is brought in is considered a “marital asset,” regardless of who earned it. Any man could easily find himself financially destitute with the sudden loss of their partner.
In our system, money is a man’s means of survival. Being broke isn’t a matter of feeling good or bad about yourself. It’s a matter of life and death. There is no shame in requesting spousal support when you need it.
If you still feel uneasy about it, you can readjust your expectations. Not all spousal support is meant to last indefinitely. It’s more common for spousal support to help someone until they become independent. This applies to both men and women. Instead of refusing spousal support altogether, you can agree to a plan that keeps you comfortable while you rebuild your life and career.
Get help from a good attorney, and allow yourself to take the help you need. It may still be more difficult for men to receive support, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting the assistance you deserve.
For help with spousal support, whether you are paying or receiving it, reach out to our firm today. You can get a consultation by calling (949) 565-4158 or contacting us online.